PITTSBURGH — — Kenny Pickett threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughn with 3 seconds left to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 32-25 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night in a preseason opener for both teams.
Pickett, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2022, is competing with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to replace retired two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger led the franchise for 18 seasons and led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances.
Pickett, a former University of Pittsburgh standout, played the second half and finished 13 of 15 for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pickett was sacked, leading to a turnover on downs, but had a chance to win the game when Pittsburgh’s Mark Robinson sacked Seattle’s Drew Lock and forced a fumble on the ensuing play.
Pickett responded with a five-play, 43-yard drive that was capped by a touchdown pass to Wongs. He received a standing ovation and chants of “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny” when he first took the field in the third quarter and before the eventual game-winning drive.
Pickett could definitely hear the appreciation from the fans.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” Pickett said. “It was an incredible feeling. It was really cool. It was special.”
Lock and Geno Smith are competing to replace Russell Wilson as Seattle’s starting quarterback. Wilson was traded to Denver in the offseason. This is the first defenseman competition for the Seahawks since 2012, when Wilson earned the rookie position.
Smith and Locke didn’t have DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett on Saturday. Smith went 10 of 15 for 101 yards and a rushing touchdown in the first half. Lock was 11-of-15 for 102 yards and two scores, but a crucial fumble that led to Pittsburgh’s game-winning touchdown.
“Both defenders were effective,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Geno could be perfect, and Drew and I ran the ball pretty well.”
All three Steelers defenders completed touchdown passes. Trubisky and Rudolph both had touchdown passes in the first quarter, while Pickett converted on his first-ever NFL drive to lead the Steelers on a game-winning drive.
Trubisky, who played most of the first quarter, finished 4 of 7 for 63 yards with a touchdown. Rudolph finished the half 9-of-15 for 93 yards and a score.
Trubisky was the second overall pick in 2017, while Rudolph has been Roethlisberger’s backup the last four seasons.
Pickett, who threw for 42 touchdowns and led the University of Pittsburgh to the program’s first ACC title, finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and was named the 2021 ACC Player of the Year.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was happy with his three defensive backs after one preseason game.
“They moved their units,” Tomlin said. “They did informal things related to the position in terms of leadership and communication. It was a good first half for all three.”
Smith, entering his fourth season with the Seahawks, filled in briefly last season when Wilson went down with a hand injury. He kept Seattle competitive, but also made critical mistakes in losses to Pittsburgh and New Orleans.
Locke, entering his fourth season, was part of the deal Seattle received in exchange for sending Wilson to the Broncos. Lock started 21 of 24 games but was inconsistent over the first three seasons.
The Seahawks punted on the first two drives of the game, including three field goals, but Smith evened it up in the second quarter with a pair of scoring drives.
Smith had an effective two-minute drive late in the half, leading the Seahawks on a nine-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in 1:27. He avoided a sack on third-and-2 and later scored a 2-yard touchdown to put the Seahawks up 17-10 at halftime.
Locke tied the score twice in the second half with a touchdown, but his fumble late in the fourth quarter proved costly for the Seahawks.
“I could have handled it better,” Locke said. “As a defender, you can fix (the defense). I’ll always take that to heart and I could be better there.”
Trubisky was backed up to his own 10-yard line to start the game, but he responded by leading the Steelers 90 yards on seven drives in less than three minutes. On his second series, Trubisky moved the offense into midfield before the Steelers were forced to punt.
Rudolph had three drives, leading the Steelers to a touchdown, a field goal and a 3-and-out.
Rudolph recovered his own fumble and was sacked on first down, but he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens two plays later. Rudolph used 17 plays and nearly nine minutes to drive the Steelers to the 3-yard line on second down. He nearly threw an interception midway through the drive, but the drive ended with a 21-yard field goal.
In his first drive, Pickett led the Steelers with a 75-yard touchdown run on 7 plays.
Seahawks: Wide receiver Cody Thompson is out with a shoulder injury. Cornerback Artie Burns, a former first-round draft pick of the Steelers, has been held out with a groin injury.
Steelers: Safety Carl Joseph is out with an ankle injury, while CB Ahkello Witherspoon is out with a shoulder injury. … Pittsburgh also held out RB Najee Harris (foot), WR Diontae Johnson (thigh), WR Chase Claypool (shoulder), TE Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), RB Benny Snell (knee), LB Alex Highsmith (ribs) and OL Kevin Dotson (ankle) among others.
Seahawks: Host Chicago on Thursday.
Steelers: Visit Jacksonville next Saturday.